Catalina Cruz along with City Councilmember Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn) joined students on Thursday to denounce Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s Excelsior Scholarship program that a recent report found excluded a majority of applicants.
Standing in front of the CUNY Borough of Manhattan Community College campus, Cruz shared how she felt disappointed with the program’s lack of inclusion.
“It is not fair that simply because you don’t have a piece of paper, you don’t qualify for a scholarship that was meant to give or at least told to us to give an opportunity,” Cruz said.
Last year, Governor Cuomo announced students at SUNY and CUNY colleges would be eligible for a state-covered scholarship covering their tuition.
However, as students at the event highlighted through their speeches and signs, not everyone is eligible for the program. The Center for an Urban Future released a report this month highlighting that 3.2 percent of public students received the scholarship. Among CUNY students, just 1.7 percent had earned the scholarship. Furthermore, undocumented students cannot apply for the program.
These obstacles, the CUNY Law School alumnae said, were against the idea of education for youths coming from different backgrounds.
Cruz shared how she endured various jobs, from retail to service, to pay for her tuition while attending at CUNY. She elaborated that she took a break after graduating because she worked over 40 hours while attending her schools.
“CUNY gave me a chance to survive,” said Cruz.
Cruz ended by allowing a John Jay student, Jesus Lopez, to speak about his struggles with the program. Lopez discussed how he realized he could not qualify for the program after reviewing what students need to receive the scholarship.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get my dream,” he said.
Barron, who graduated from Hunter College, said the Governor failed students with a program that created an “exclusive” group of applicants. She felt concerned with the students who worked several jobs or even delay their studies because of the rising costs with their education.
“We’re saying to the Governor [to] stop the charade. If you’re going to have a scholarship, make it available to everyone,” Barron said.
Cruz faces State Assemblymember Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst) and Yonel Lettelier Sosa. The Democratic primary is set for Thursday, September 13th.